Fractured, but not broken

Wine, Kendrick Lamount

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FRACTURED, BUT NOT BROKEN It is quite difficult to maintain a relationship with family and friends while a loved one is in prison. The longer the sentence, the greater the challenge and complexity it is to be a part of each other’s lives. I have been incarcerated since the tender youthful age of 17- years old. In less than a half a year I will be 40-years old with the soul of a man and mental scares twice my age. Over the many years I learned what it means to “be family” and to “have family.” I classify the above two definitions as “living” and “existing.” An existing relationship is a relationship of simplicity, in terms of association. The only fact that must be met to establish this type of relationship is DNA, the common sharing of biological genes. This type of relationship is just “having famiiy” it simply exists with no input, care or love. There is a tribe of people from a small town in Arkansas; when they find something funny, they laugh just like me, get mad and squint their eyes like me, and when I look in the mirror, I see a little bit of them all staring at me. Over the 22 year period of my incarceration, I have tried to find ways to build family ties under gun towers, censorship, in and out of the hole, and constant surveillance. A “living” relationship or to “be family” breathes. It contains water and oxygen, the key elements of life. It communicates, shares, believes, cooperate, trust, agrees, disagrees, forgives, and most of all it loves and builds memories. A Impulsitivity, pride, and a super ego I named “G--Wine” lead my direction. I thought this is what it meant to be a man. The only eyes I was fooling were the blind eyes of G-Wine. As a child and well into my adolescence years I did not know how to be a man. As I have grown and reflected back, I now see and understand why and how I developed a male inadequate complex. What I lacked as a man I thought I found by using violence. At a very early age I became a violent and aggressive youth. For the crime of murder I was placed in the San Diego Juvenile Hall. When I first got juvenile hall, my mother was there for me. She would visit every visiting day, twice a week. Every Thursday and Sunday nights I would see her beautiful face smiling with love in her heart and worry and uncertainty of my fiiture in her brown eyes. It was guaranteed my mother would be the first person through the barbed wired entrance. During our weekly two hour visits, my mother would bring in famous quotes, Bible verses and abundance of love. My mother constantly reminded me, her and god would see me through this life—altering experience. My mother also taught me to never question G-od’s Devine Plan, just be God’s plan. I recall standing in my assigned cell, hoping and wishing my mother would visit. I heard, “Wine in cell 018, you got a visit.” I would rush to the cell door and eagerly await the off1cer’s presence to let me out of the cell or my visit. As each time I got a. visit each. day brought on more and more meaning and the understanding of the significance of life. Seven and a half months later I was transferred to the adult county jail. My lawyer explained “Kendrick the judge sent me a fax that states on your eighteenth birthday the Sheriff’ s Department will pick you up first thing in the morning and transfer you to the adult county jail downtown. Are you ready?” I shrub my shoulders upwards and say “Okay.” When I got to the adult facility the weekly visits from my mother stopped. Instead of seeing my mother twice a week I would felt blessed to see her once a month. Not only did the weekly visits fail to come, the letters and cards of inspiration disappeared as well. I began to feel a feeling I felt so much of my young life... abandonment, anxiety, loneliness, and depression became my constant companions. I tried to suppress those feelings, but they demanded too much attention. Attention I needed, so attention I gave those feelings. “Mom, I need at court. I need some type of family support. If I do not get any support the judge will think nobody cares about me and he will do whatever he wants,” I said doubtfully. “Kendrick, I can not miss work. If I take off too many days I may lose my job. I can not do it, so stop asking,” My mother angrily replied. Two months later I was sentenced to 18-years to life in state prison. At sentencing I stood alone. The court made acknowledgement of this fact by stating “It is sad and quit disturbing to the court that your family failed to attend any of these court proceedings.” After the judge repeatedly made judgment that he believes I will rise from the prison cell and one day become a productive member of society, the court went against its own judgment and condemned me to die in prison by sentencing me to 18-years in Old Folsom Maximum Security Prison. My Grandmother Julia, the matriarch of my family lives two thousands miles away. She has made my situation of being in prison a serious and great concern. Our distance, her chronic ill health, and her advanced age have made visiting a difficult task. I only embraced my grandmother three times in well over two decades. However, her love and understanding of family has transcended the physical vessels we call flesh. In spirit, the moment I was placed in custody to never to society my grandmother was there and has always been there with me. Every breath I breathed, my Grandmother Julia breathed the same air; my grandmother sat in every holding cell with me and spiritually encouraged me to keep my faith and head up as she witnessed in disgust as I ate cold spotted, dark brown bologna sandwich while promising to cook my favorite meal when I come home. These imaginations and thoughts inspire me to do what must be done so that I can greet my ultimate goal. My grandmother and I stay connected through phone cails, letters, cards, and postcards. Through the journey of faith I walk I smile a lot, probably because it looks so darn handsome or to hide all the pain I face on a daily basis. Intuitively I feel the love my grandmother harbors for me. Love in its purest form tells me I need to be an active physical being in my grandmother’s life. Just as I need her, she needs me. I thirst to be in the blessed cycle of sharing, caring and building life long memories. She never stresses me out by asking when I will be coming home. She just advises me that god and her will see me through this (unending) struggle. My younger brother was 6-years old when I left him. He and I maintain a living relationship through phone calls and occasional letters. He sometimes wonders about the early history of our immediate family. I did not realize the hurt and detriment he suffers from me not being a physical presences in his life until I read a letter he sent to the California Parole Board begging for his only brother’s release. As a child developing into a man I think back to how I desired to teach him the gift of being a responsible man. How a man, a responsible man places the needs of his family in front of his selfish wants. I get a picture in the mail; it’s an ultrasound that reads: “Hi Uncle Ken.” My brother is having his first child. Also, in the letter is another letter from my brother which reads: “Ken, me and Jessica are getting married. I want you to be my best man. We set the date for the wedding six months after your next parole board hearing. Jessica and I are counting on you to be there.” I think to myself and whisper “I will be there.” My dad is in and out of my life. His consistency is his inconsistent presence. For many years my beliefs were like so many other immature adolescents growing up in prison regarding the love “we” feel for our fathers. I managed to convince myself that I did not have any feelings for that man. He never planted himself in my life long enough to allow a father-son relationship to blossom. My feelings towards him were like any other stranger on the streets of Bangkok, a place I had never been. Again, these foolish eyes were fooling just one person, the person who desired the love and presence of his father. “Son, I want to take you upstate to go fishing, I need you to help me shovel the snow of my sidewalk before the city gives me a ticket, today we are barbequing for Memorial Day, damn boy when are you coming home?” I get a letter from a person with the same last name as mines, who claim we are family. She writes, “Hi my name is Samantha. The family calls me Sam. I was told that you are Uncle Aubrey’s oldest son. I didn’t know he had two boys.” The letter went on to explain she learned of my existence and incarceration from a cousin. My cousin Sam was born after my incarceration. The cousin who showed Sam pictures of me stopped communicating with me. I went form waiting on a birthday card to a fifteen years drought of no communication. I find myself making up irrational and unreasonable excuses in why I have not heard from Tamara. When reality sets in and the truth surfaces, the pain of having a loved one removed out of her life for so long, coupled with the embarrassment for why I am incarcerated I.'1’iaCl%f.‘ it easy for her to Walk away and erase‘ me out of the confines of her mind. I find myself talking to god on a daily, usually I am praying for the victim and begging for my freedom. In the meanwhile as I wait for my prayers to be granted, wishing I could be like you, shut you out of my heart and fade you out of my mind. I pray that you and all the times shared with you removed from my mind, where do I hide the smile that decorates my face when there are thoughts of you? Who do I sing happy birthday every July 17? Why do I love the ocean so much? I wish this separation never occurred. I pray that this incarceration is an awful dream. I wish I could surprise you with a slice of cheesecake when you come home from the gym. I wish, I wish, I wish. . .you cared! Holidays are the time of somber moods and the threat of suicide send out invitations. Thanksgiving, Christmas day and Father’s Day are the “big three” “Hello Kendrick, is that you,” said Uncle Dell. “Yes, Uncle Dell it’s me, how are you?” I responded. “I’m doing well. Everybody in the house my nephew Ken is on the phone. The house erupts with laughter and chatter. I can only make out a few words like “Hey Ken, miss you, love you, Happy Thanksgiving, come home soon.” I am gone and forgotten to most people, however, I called the right number, a house full of love. My Grandmother Julia keeps me alive throughout her home in a vast collection of artwork, poems, cards and inspirational quotes in how I’m striving, thriving and refusing to give up in the belly of the beast. My grandmother collects and posts my pictures, cards, and poems. “Nephew when are those people going to let you up out of there,” my Uncle Dell wonders. “I got a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Southern District Court, I’m still fighting.” “Nephew you have been fighting for well over 20 years. When does the fight stop, you come home and start your life?” I will be home soon, Uncle don’t count me out. Promising to come home soon has become customary. Once I exit the phone booth, my 15 minutes of celebrating thanksgiving immediately ends. I try to convince myself that today is a plain ordinary day. Matter-of-fact it feels like a Monday. I hate Mondays. Mondays are too damn long and boring. My subconscious mind calls me a lair and I subconsciously find myself in the inmate canteen line purchasing eggnog and mint cookies. There are a number of inmates who stay high on some type of mind altering substances during the holiday season. Not necessarily to celebrate the occasion, but to find solace, an escapism with no escape just trapped doors and poor decisions. A friend approached me and asks “Kendrick, do you get high?” He was waiting for the usual response most people in my situation give him. I responded by saying, “Homeboy the only high I get is the high standards and morals I live by. No I do not use drugs or alcohol, but I do love butter pecan ice cream.” I developed a brotherhood relationship with my very first cellmate from juvenile hall. Mackie and I are brothers. He is Pilipino and I am African- American, nonetheless we are brothers. Mackie has been in and out of the judicial system with frequency. He struggles to find directions due to seeing his life without meaning or having a purpose. Imnate prison politics cal ls for people of two different races to associate from a distance and “be brief.” Irrational thinking and illogic emotional reasoning is generally the normal reactions. In this environment we are further instructed by daily brute enforcement to hate and despise people who do not share the same color as “we.” I refuse to play that game. I am far removed from race or color. I view every human being as an extension of me. My thoughts and acts mirror each other. I make joke of the fact that Mackie comes in and out of the system. “Mackie you are a good friend to come back to prison to see me during the holiday season.” We both laugh. I remember the early years of my incarceration and how I would watch inmates parole. I would see them carry a small box (usually old letters, cards and hygiene items), with a slow walk of relief and a smile that tries to hide his fear. I would imagine their dreams a career, loving family, home and vacating in Hawaii. Now as I enter the twenty-third year of my incarceration I look away. The pain of being left behind is too severe. If I stare too - long tears of envy will run down my face or pearls of pain will mist my eyes. I get an urgent message that Mackie paroles today and he needs to speak with me. I go to Mackie’s cell and step inside. Mackie say’_s “dog, you know I got major love for you, like a brother’s love. I see the transformation you’ve made over all these years. It is sad that these people keep denying your parole. Here is a box of items for you.” In the box I see a container of creamer. I open it. There isn’t any creamer in the container. I see a black item wrapped in plastic. I open the bag. It’s a little, very little cell phone. Is this what cell phones look like? My heart rate accelerate, my hands become cold and clammy. I begin to perspire. I’m afraid. But what I don’t understand, am I afraid of being caught with the wireless device or am I afraid of its technology. I call my mother. She is also frightened. She wonders what may happen to my chances at parole if I am found in possession of a wireless device. Somehow we manage to talk. The phone goes dead 3 ‘/2 hours elapsed. The day following getting the blessing or is it a curse has me questioning my actions. What is the proper thing to do? Do I keep the phone, let somebody hold it for me or do I get rid of it all together? I wrestle with these thoughts for months. I get an early morning text “Gud morning big cuzin, I luv you. Today I start 5th grade.” I text back, “Good moring Mariah I luv you 2. Get good grades because when you get big I will need a good doctor or lawyer.” Immediately I get another text “I don’t want to be a doctor or lawyer I’m going to be a singer.” I laugh and the atmosphere of Mariah’s spirit controls my day. My Aunt Alice and Angie are loyal sources of inspiration and positive feed back. They tell me how the family comes together for a night of fun. It’s a get-together. Board games, talk, laughs, food and drinks are shared. On this night the focus is family. Somewhere during the night my name is mentioned. “When will ken come home?” The room temperature drops, silence takes over and control its atmosphere. A few minutes pass. My Cousin Darrell agrees, “Yeah he has been in there for a very long time!” My Uncle Kenny speaks, “I sent him a money order and a care package to Folsom last month.’ The family members that are connected to me know that is a lie. I left Folsom 5 years ago. A few relative go outside for a smoke break to never return. People exit the house person by person until only one p€l‘SO.‘~.1; the Matriarch stands alone and decides to write a late night letter. “Dear Ken.”

Author: Wine, Kendrick Lamount

Author Location: California

Date: April 28, 2017

Genre: Essay

Extent: 5 pages

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